This time last year, French Montana was hustling from the ground releasing mixtapes, hoping his music would find the right ears. Today, he’s had 2 hit singles dominate radio, he recently released the remix for his infectious hit, “Shot Caller” and he’s garnering just as much spins for his cameo on Rick Ross’ “Stay Scheming” single. He also is one of XXL’s Freshmen 10, released by the magazine just hours ago. Plus, he’s signed to Bad Boy Records, preparing the release of his debut album, Excuse My French, which will be executive produced by Rick Ross & Diddy. Needless to say, the last year has been quite successful for the Moroccan born, Karim Kharbouch. But if you think he’s content, you haven’t met French. We recently sat down with Montana to discuss the rise from Cocaine City. Our French Montana interview…
Parlé Magazine: You’ve been in this industry for some time now and those who have done their homework know this. We’ll get to that in a second, but first, I know you were born in Morocco, and came to America at 13. Tell me about that, what was it like growing up in Morocco?
French Montana: Growing up in a third world country… it’s hard. There’s poverty, you live good if you have money. It’s different, the whole culture is different. Over there everyone doesn’t get an equal opportunity, over here you do. Talent speaks over here, but over there its politics.
Parlé: Would you say dealing with the poverty and that upbringing helped prepare you for what you would eventually do in this Hip-Hop game?It kinda didn’t prepare me, but it changed how I look at everything. You go from living one way to living another way. Over here it’s better for me because I have a chance, a fair shot. That’s what I love about it over here.
Parlé: Now, you started the Cocaine City DVDs, a great business venture that turned out to be very successful. What inspired you to create that?
Montana: When I seen that everybody had there own lane… When I first started rapping seriously, everybody had their own lane. Uncle Murda had [DJ] Green Lantern, Papoose had [Kay] Slay, everybody had a DJ, but that was the obvious that everybody was doing, so I was looking for some kind of platform to showcase what I had. So DVDs was kinda unique. One day me and my dawgs was watching one, smoking, drinking and said, ‘this how we can do our shit’. And it worked out.
Parlé: Dealing with artists on the day to day, did that give you an edge when you really wanted to get to the next level?
Montana: I kinda learned from meeting up with dudes and finding out all kinds of things about them. It kinda prepared me for the game. It’s a lot of work, especially in New York, just to be somebody—I can’t even say, bringing the whole East Coast back—but to just be a part of history. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s hard.
Parlé: Leading up to the success you had last year, I know you were signed with Mizay Entertainment and Konvict, why didn’t those situations work out?
Montana: With Mizay, I was only there for only like a year and a half. Shout out to Deb, and Waka and everybody over there. With Akon, I was never really signed to the label, it was just like a shopping deal. I was going to sign to him only if he found me a deal that I liked. It was like a six month to a year period. I guess he was trying to get me a situation but it never worked out. Sometimes you just gotta take over and do it yourself.
Parlé: In the last couple of years you’ve put out like 15, 16 mixtapes consistently…
Montana: Yeah, no mercy. I’m about to put out another one, The Coke Boys mixtape.
Parlé: Putting out all that music, how will it affect the album and what people get on that?
Montana: I think it will help the album, that’s how I like to look at it. What people don’t realize is that with every new mixtape, you gain a new audience. There might be somebody who didn’t like your last mixtape. There might be somebody that’s brand new. I feel like it’s better to over do it than to not do enough. The mixtape marketing is what got Max hot, what got me hot, what got me a deal. “Shot Caller” came off a mixtape, “Choppa Choppa Down” came off a mixtape, “Shot Caller” is the number one added record right now across the country [at the time of the interview]. You never know what a record is going to do off the power of a mixtape. Look at Ross, now he has “Stay Scheming” off a mixtape. Mixtapes is big.
Parlé: When you put a song like “Choppa Down” on a mixtape or a song like “Shot Caller” on a mixtape, do you envision this type of success, or is it a surprise to even you?
Montana: We don’t pick music, we just let the people, the streets pick it. We just put it out, the DJs rip it off a mixtape and from there it just takes off on its own.
Parlé: Let’s talk about this Bad Boy situation. That’s a big look for you, why did you go with Bad Boy Records?
Montana: I think that Bad Boy needed me and the other labels just wanted me. They weren’t really going to go as hard for me as I needed. Shout out to my dawg, Harve Pierre, me and Harve Pierre sat down, we went through everything and it was just, you know, history. Especially with MMG, they close. I always felt like Ross and Puff had that energy together. Both of them helping me with my album, I feel like it’s going to be classic.
Parlé: Ross is producing the album, correct?
Montana: Yeah, he’s executive producing with Puff.
Parlé: Excuse My French is the album. Anything you can tell me about it?
Montana: Man, I don’t even want to talk about it because when it hits, I’ma turn it all the way up.
Parlé: I hear you. Any advice you want to give to artists out there trying to have a year like you just had, and want to see the type of success that you’re seeing?
Montana: I think the number one thing man is Stop Complaining. Stop looking for people to help you out. The person you looking for is yourself. Just go out there and get it. I feel like a lot of people out here expect shit. Ain’t nobody going to come over and help you out. Everybody is for them self out here. That’s what I did. You could know as many people as you want to, but you gotta still go out there and get it.
Parlé: Describe your grind to me if you can. I talk to a lot of artists, but seeing you build from the ground up, What does it really take to get into this Rap game?
Montana: Vicious. No time off. It’s hard man. I tell people, you better off being a basketball player or a football player. You gotta look at it, it’s like 30 teams in the NBA, 12 players on every team. All them players is getting a check. But in the Rap game, you can’t name 10 n*ggas that’s hot. See, look at the odds of that. You better off making it in the NBA. Rap shit is hard. And you gotta stick to your grind. Your grind gotta be impeccable.
Parlé: I talked to your label mate, Red Café recently, and I asked him this same question, because I know how long the two of you been grinding, and he said he been doing it 7 years…
Montana: I remember Red Café… This how I remember Red, cause Red my dawg. He was in a group, I wasn’t even rapping then. If he been in the game for seven, then I been in the game for four. Cause I started rapping like 2 years after that. He was in a group, him Gravy… And somebody else… Q Da Kid! I was doing the DVDs in ’02, ’03 but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I started taking it serious when Max came around cause he was always active.
Parlé: Since we on Max B, how’d you and Max get connected?
Montana: Through my boy, his cousin. We just linked up. When I linked up with Max, it was over. That’s my dawg.
Parlé: Okay, back to the question I asked Red. After all those years on the grind, was their ever a time when you just wanted to give it all up?
Montana: Hell yeah, you gotta go through that. I don’t want to do it no more, f*ck everybody, you gotta go through that.
This shit taking too long… You gonna go through that.
But you gotta look at it, if this shit was easy, everybody would be a rapper. You know what I’m saying? If this shit was a walk in the park, everybody would be a rapper. That’s why a lot of n*ggas quit, ‘F*ck this sh*t’, then n*ggas quit. That’s how you know who really wanted it.
Parlé: If you weren’t rapping, what would you be doing right now?
Montana: (Pause) That would be something I don’t even wanna think about. For Real… Man, that would be some coulda been, shoulda been.
Parlé: Aight. Back to a happier topic. Have you been back to Morocco recently?
Montana: I’m going in the Summer.
Parlé: Are you performing? Or just vacationing out there?
Montana: Naw, I’m just going out there, going to see my family. All my old family out there.
Parlé: I don’t know any better, but is Hip-Hop as big over there as it is over here?
Montana: Yeah! Bigger over there. We appreciate Hip-Hop over there more than we appreciate Hip-Hop over here.
Parlé: Cool. So tell me, before this album drops, what can we expect from French Montana?
Montana: I’m about to do a Coke Boys 3 mixtape. We about to get a Coke Boys deal. I’m working on Mac & Cheese 3 mixtape. I’m enjoying it. I’m working on a bunch of things. Of course, I’m working on my album.
Parlé: And the goal is for the album to drop this year right?
Montana: Yeah. Probably end of the Summer or fourth quarter.
Parlé: Thanks a lot. Appreciate the time.
Images by Shareif Ziyadat
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